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Saturday, 01 November 2014
 
 
BBC GONE WILD: “ this is London, we speculate and you decide” Professor Aaron Rajah, California. PDF Print E-mail
BBC UK - “we speculate and spin you decide”.
A pioneer in news reporting, BBC, is by far the most knowledgeable, integrated and superior news agency in the world. From the days of the Normandy landing and the French freedom fighters of World War II, BBC news reporting has a great historical perspective. In the contest of Sri Lanka ethnic cleansing by the government forces, from the inception on the conflict the BBC news agency has shown maturity and leadership with immediate, honest, and balanced reporting.

Vivid followers of BBC still remember pioneering reporters on Sri Lankan issue like Humphrey Hoxey and Mark Delly whom covered the conflict from the inception of the war.

Since then, these reporters have changed and moved on to other assignments but the conflict in Sri Lanka remains constant. Many minority Tamils, victims of state terrorism, relied on their short wave radios waiting for the voice to say “this is London”. It was a voice of freedom for the many oppressed in the world and certainly the minority Tamils in Sri Lanka were no exception.

In the new age of technology, BBC has quickly evolved through internet and satellite to meet challenges it faced both in technology and in reporting from the front lines of war. The BBC news website and the BBC satellite services in many ways replaced the shortcomings of a shortwave radio, but none imagined that BBC would change its core values of reporting and ethical journalism. Here are some examples of unethical journalism the BBC has been involved in during the war between the Sri Lankan government and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

1) When in doubt use the buzz words:

a) On the news report on April 29th, 2007 under title “Sri Lanka rebels in new air raid” BBC added the following sentences:

“Experts say the Tigers could have as many as five light aircraft, smuggled into the country in pieces to be assembled in jungle bases.”

BBC cannot know how many aircrafts the Tigers command, yet they speculate as “experts” claiming and failing to identify the so-called “experts”. These “experts” are usually Sinhala-based news reporters whom themselves had earlier speculated in their own reports and now are referred to as experts by the BBC. When did the BBC become such a mouthpiece for speculation? When in doubt BBC had used words such as, “many say,” “Experts believe,” “many analyst believe,” and “sources say”.

b) On the news report “cloning of credit card” BBC used words such as “Independent security sources told BBC correspondent Keith Doyle these claims were credible.” Who are these independent security sources? It can be anyone from the street who claims to have a security background, adding this to the news violates ethical norms of reporting. When did BBC become a source of speculation and rumors?. Can we now have a new slogan for BBC: we speculate and you decide.

2) Various reports on the same BBC website (BBC has three different stories on the Sri Lankan war and relies on readers to go their respective sides to get the news). The BBC Sinhala, BBC Tamil and BBC South Asia sites have the same story, told differently. For example, the news of “MIG shot down” was reported by the BBC Tamil services yet ignored by the BBC Sinhala and BBC South Asia reporting sites. Why the folly?

3) Confuse the readers and spin the news: In the news item on 26th of April, 2007 BBC reports: “Top US Tamil Tiger is arrested”. Well, the arrested man was never a top person, this was even pointed out by the court papers filed by the FBI and yet BBC spins it as “top tiger” avoiding such words as “alleged tiger supporter”. But interestingly BBC does use the words “alleged” in other instances such as “alleged al-quaeda arrested”.
4) Biased in Pictures: in the following you have three pictures which appeared on April 26 under the news title of “Top US Tamil Tiger’ is arrested” clearly indicating biased reporting.

Caption reads: The rebels are currently fighting the Sri Lankan military

Caption reads: The Sri Lanka army is regularly attacked in the north and east

Caption reads: The US Sri Lanka ambassador was in a rebel attack this year.


As you know, to a newcomer, a picture can say a thousands words. There are so many pictures to choose from the LTTE pictures wearing their respective military fatigue. In fact, LTTE is one of the few rebel outfits who have their own uniforms and yet those pictures are not posted in this news article indicating the rebel outfit is a rag outfit and a paraya. In addition, the caption says that the Sri Lankan army is regularly attacked from the north and east but this is not quite true. The army itself is on the offensive in many regions yet those captions are quite conveniently avoided. Furthermore, a report that a US ambassador was injured in the rebel attack is not true. This caption makes the readers think that the rebel attack was made to kill the ambassador, which is not true but rather leads the reader to a faulty perception. Interestingly, the good ambassador him self said that he was never hurt in the incidence.

All in all, BBC has lost credibility in news reporting both on the BBC website, as well as on the air.  The biased news reports on the conflict can only hurt BBC in the long run. After all who wants a news reporting agency that says, “we speculate and spin you decide”.

By: Professor Aaron Rajah, San Diego, California.

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